(published as a Letter to the Editor in Crain’s Chicago Business on line on 4/30/2021 and in print 5/3/2021)

There are probably few people in America who don’t think some investment in our physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, trains, sewers, water supply and more) is long overdue. Biden is proposing a $2.2M+ infrastructure plan that includes these things and more. Republicans are proposing about $550B in physical infrastructure.

With 30+ years as a financial manager for businesses (Controller. CFO, etc), the first question I asked myself is what needs to be done and how much will it cost. I don’t get the governmental/political process of starting with an amount of money.

Our political and governmental leaders should pause and take the common-sense business approach of compiling a list of projects, assigning estimating costs and prioritizing them. If local, state and federal governments and their respective bureaucrats and elected leaders want to make a serious dent in the backlog of necessary infrastructure projects, I’m sure it wouldn’t take them long to compile that list and then go to a few civil engineers and/or public construction companies for bids so that each state, county and/or city could submit a list with projected costs and priorities in a short period of time. Further, if any of these governmental authorities needed to engage consultants to put these lists together, put them out for estimates, there should be bipartisan agreement to immediately authorize a certain dollar amount per capita for each state, county or city/town to give them the financial resources to come back with the compiled list with dollars and priorities.

Let’s end this inane process of throwing out a number to vote on without first compiling this list and then letting the politicians vote on how far down this list to fund.

Before I conclude, I realize this last comment leads to a potentially long conversation about which specific project get done with whatever amount of funding is agreed to. I guess there will be a time for each senator and congressperson to work on bringing home the pork sometimes in exchange for their vote. Outside of an impartial commission to decide which are the most urgent projects and/or have the biggest ROI for the country or the community, I don’t know how we escape that, and to the extent that the economic benefit of an investment is ultimately what will drive politicians of both parties to vote yes, all communities should get some economic benefit.

If you agree with this approach, please forward this note to your elected representatives or people you know in media who can help spread the word and ask politicians why this isn’t being done.